The Netherlands enters the WBC Tournament with a team composed of current and past MLB stars as they look towards another deep tournament run.
The 2023 World Baseball Classic is bigger than ever. For the first time in WBC history, the tournament will feature 20 teams, including four European teams. Of the four, two have appeared in every WBC. One of the two is the Netherlands, who have also seen the most success in the tournament out of the European teams.
They have a plethora of big league experience on their roster including several past All-Stars. While not the favorite in their pool, they are in what looks to be a very competitive pool, which opena up the field for them. Here is a look at where the Netherlands stand going into the tournament.
History in the Tournament/History of Baseball in the Netherlands
Baseball in the Netherlands goes back to 1912 when it was brought over by English teacher J.C.G. Grase, following his travels to the US. Today the top-level league is known as the professional Honkbal. The country has consistently been a blue blood among the European baseball teams and has produced a few major leaguers over the years including Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven.
In addition to the Netherlands, Curacao, which is a Dutch Caribbean island, has produced some of baseball’s most prominent names today and potentially some of tomorrow’s stars; just look at their recent success in the Little League World Series.
The team is coming off two memorable fourth place finishes in the past two WBC tournaments. They also have a history of emerging as an underdog. In 2009 they knocked off a heavy favorite in the Dominican Republic by defeating them twice in pool play. In the 2000 Olympics, they shockingly won a game over the longstanding Cuban powerhouse.
The team has some strong major league talent in their batting order, particularly in the infield. There, they field the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Schoop, and Andrelton Simmons. They also might want to make room for Didi Gregorius.
The starting catcher position will likely be held by Chadwick Tromp. Tromp saw brief major league action with the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves over the past three seasons.
Veteran Jurickson Profar leads the way in the outfield along with former MLB player Roger Bernadina and Washington Nationals youngster Josh Palacios. Palacios also has a brother on the team, Richie Palacios. The latter saw big league action last season with the Cleveland Guardians. The Palacios brothers are one of three sibling duos on the Dutch roster. Schoop’s brother Sharlon is also on the infield in addition to Profar’s brother Juremi. Could the family ties aid in the closeness of the team?
While their pitching does not stand out on paper like their batting lineup does, the Netherlands does have some experience on the mound that could work to their advantage in the tournament.
Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen is in the team’s designated player pool and will not be available until later in the tournament. Meanwhile, the team has the 19-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Antwone Kelly, Philadelphia Phillies prospect Jaydenn Estanista, and veteran reliever Pedro Strop.
They also have past major league pitchers Shairon Martis and Jair Jurrjens to turn to as part of their core of older, experienced players.
With the top two teams advancing out of pool play and no definite favorite among the Pool A teams, it is plausible to predict that the Netherlands make it out of pool play for the fourth consecutive tournament. What is standing in their way? A Cuban team who has better odds than the Netherlands by a small margin, and an Italian team who will also look to capitalize on some MLB experience and emerge as a threat. The Dutch, however, have a great track record of defying odds and making extensive runs in the tournament.
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